Imagine running a marathon - and stopping one foot short of the finish line.
Atlanta Braves fans need not imagine it. They've experienced it for 13 out of 14 years, as the team has won 14 straight division titles only to lose in the playoffs every year but 1995.
This year's sudden stop was more painful than most, with the Braves on the brink of winning Game 4 of their series with the Houston Astros Sunday before losing on an 18th-inning homer in the longest game in postseason history. Had the Braves held their 6-1 eighth-inning lead, a deciding Game 5 would have been played Monday night in the friendly confines of Turner Field.
Reaction to yet another postseason swoon has been predictably whiny and bitter - with one Internet blogger calling for Manager Bobby Cox's and General Manager John Schuerholz's heads, adding this ridiculous sentence: "I am sick of collecting division titles." How silly and spoiled we are.
The truth is, the Braves are winners of a historic magnitude. Indeed, Alan Schwarz, senior writer for Baseball America magazine, has even suggested that Schuerholz - whose uniform is a suit and tie - is Hall of Fame material. He even wrote that before this year's "Baby Braves" rookies helped keep the amazing streak alive.
We wholeheartedly agree. Schuerholz belongs in the Hall someday. And, just off the top of our heads, we can think of at least 14 reasons why.
Yes, the Braves stopped short of the finish line.
But what a run.